I grew up in a small town in Oklahoma where the only things going on were rodeos, farming, ranching, and cruising through town making round trips between the Sonic and Tastee Freeze. Being the county seat, a big, old courthouse stands smack dab in the center of town. My Dad was a sole practitioner lawyer there. After school each day, I worked at Dad’s office, answering phones, delivering checks and occasionally making court filings and talking to judges to get orders signed. One day I had to go to the courthouse to talk to Judge Simmons. He was an eccentric old guy who had traveled all over the world, and I loved to listen to his stories. He also had a special trick … he could flick an unlit cigarette in a triple back flip sort of motion so that it would land perfectly between his lips, at which time he would light it with his silver Zippo and quickly snap it closed. He was cool and different.
One day when I went to see Judge Simmons, he was sitting behind his bench in full judge garb, robe and all, and he was eating something I’d never seen before. He was eating raw meat. It looked like raw hamburger, so I asked him what it was. With a proud, wide smile, he said he was eating chopped raw meat he’d bought from our local butcher. He ate it straight from the crumpled butcher paper and there were no fancy accompaniments … he simply smeared the raw chopped meat on a saltine cracker and then added a shot or two of Tabasco on top. I was mortified and ran back to my Dad’s office to tell him the story. That’s when I learned that it was Judge Simmons’ Oklahomafied version of Steak Tartare.
It took a long time before I was brave enough to try Steak Tartare. The occasion was my first trip to Paris where I felt an obligation to try it. I chose a small, unassuming bistro in the Marais. I’m not sure what cut of beef was used, but I remember that the meat was mixed with some sort of liquor, mustard and capers. I was hooked.
The recipe below is adapted from the Classic Steak Tartare recipe from Delmonico’s Steakhouse in Manhattan. For those of you not familiar with Delmonico’s, it has the distinction of being this country’s first real restaurant – opening its doors in New York’s Financial District in 1837.
Steak Tartare usually isn’t made at home, probably due to people’s fear of consuming raw meat and eggs. But with Rare’s meat and farm fresh eggs from your local farmers’ market, this should not be a concern. Check with your medical professional, but we do not recommend eating raw meat or eggs if you are elderly, immunocompromised or pregnant.
1 lb Aspen Ridge Tenderloin, trimmed of all fat and membrane and well chilled
2 Anchovy filets, drained, minced and rubbed into paste with a butter knife
¼ Cup sweet onion, finely minced
¼ Cup capers, drained well and finely minced
2 T Cup cornichons, finely minced
1 Fresh jalapeno (small), seeded, stem removed and finely minced
1 T Dijon mustard (whole grain)
Fresh flat leaf parsley
Worcestershire to taste
Tabasco, Crystal or other good hot sauce to taste (I use Crystal)
1 Large farm fresh egg yolk (see note about quail eggs after the recipe steps)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 – Combine the anchovy paste, onion, capers, cornichons and jalapeño in a small bowl and set aside.
2 – Remove the chilled steak from the refrigerator. If the meat is not chilled enough, place it in the freezer for 20-30 minutes.
3 – Finely mince the steak and place in a chilled bowl. You can make a chilling bowl by placing ice in a stainless steel bowl and then place another bowl within the ice bowl.
4 – Combine the anchovy onion mixture with the minced steak and the egg yolk. Add 2 teaspoons of finely chopped parsley and the Worcestershire and hot sauce. Gently toss using two kitchen forks. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5 – Place in a round mold and top with a little more parsley. Serve with toast points, rye bread or French fries, and other traditional accompaniments – chopped egg white, chopped egg yolk, minced red onion, minced caper berries, Dijon mustard, etc. I sometimes serve it on a bed of mixed lettuces with olive oil and lemon juice.
If you would like to serve individual portions, consider leaving the raw egg out of step 3 and serve each portion with a raw quail egg. Your guests can mix the egg in themselves.